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Keyla Sandoval: I have been challenging myself to unique journeys every year since 2014

You haven't always been a Charlottean (like many)! Where have you lived? 

I was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, and moved to New York City after graduating from college with a banking and finance degree. In 1993, I moved to Charlotte and have been here since. I chose to be a stay-at-home mom while raising my children, Isabella and Alexandro (who are both now in college), while putting my giving nature to work. I volunteered, and still do, with different organizations throughout the years, such as International House, Autism Charlotte, and The Foundation for Tomorrow (TFFT). I recently opened my own travel business, Travel & Tours Boutique, which I design and lead small groups to wonderful destinations with a purpose.

How did you become involved with The Foundation for Tomorrow?

I was invited to a S.O.S. (South of the Sahara) Gala in 2010 where I learned about TFFT's mission and story. Since then, I wanted to support TFFT and be part of the change. The vision and work that Meghann Gunderman and her team have done for the orphan and vulnerable children in Tanzania has been so incredibly inspiring. In 2014, I had the opportunity to participate in RIDETZ, a 400-mile ride from Arusha to Pangani in 10 days. Now I’m planning on climbing Kilimanjaro this October. There are many ways to become involved with TFFT. I choose to stay involved by participating in some events such as “RIDETZ” and “KILICLIMB,” volunteering with the gala, making a monetary contribution yearly, and by spreading the word and raising awareness of TFFT’s work in Tanzania. What motivates you to stay so involved and giving?

I believe in the power of education and I believe in The Foundation For Tomorrow. I have witnessed TFFT ’s meaningful impact in the lives of children in Tanzania, by offering orphan and vulnerable children the opportunity to succeed through access to quality schooling, health and psychosocial support, and life skills programs. 

Why do you think it is important to support an international non-profit?

We live in a world that is more connected than ever. And there are many nations that need our attention and help. To me, it is more important to engage with the organization itself, to see first-hand how the organization is evolving, and to know where the funds are being directed rather than where the organization is physically located. 

You participated in the RIDETZ 2014! What's that experience like?

I could have not done it without my family’s unconditional support and I’m so grateful for. RIDETZ 2014 was an extraordinary and life-changing experience. There were so many factors—just training for it was so demanding and rewarding. I was so lucky to train with another local RIDETZ rider, Katie Caniglia, who always kept me motivated. We rode in sand, mud, uphills, downhills, plains, mountains.

Visiting a new country provides such a different perspective: riding a bike all day every day for 10 days, seeing and sharing moments with the beautiful Tanzanian people, building camaraderie with the team and gaining friends for life is priceless. 

Also, the landscape of the 400-mile stretch is incredible—beautiful and diverse. The culture, their food…everything is just wonderful. Meeting the scholars leaves you speechless; they are precious, and they look so happy. Just knowing that this event and the funds raised are giving them a better future, an opportunity to thrive in their society and country is an extraordinary feeling. They are the reason I participated in RIDETZ and keep engaged with the organization. RIDETZ is definitely an experience that I highly recommend. 

Your next challenge is to tackle Africa's tallest free-standing mountain? Tell us about your Kilimanjaro climb.

Well, I’m very excited about my next adventure but a bit scared since it is my first time tackling such a challenge, especially dealing with high altitude. Keep in mind that the height of Mount Kilimanjaro is 19,341 feet (5,895 meters). I have been challenging myself to unique journeys every year since 2014, something that requires commitment, discipline, and physical activity. I have done El Camino de Santiago (St. James Way) in Spain, I have biked through the Burgundy area in France, also Puglia in Italy, and much more. Climbing Kilimanjaro won’t be easy especially because of the altitude sickness one can experience, but I have all my energy in training, not only physically, but also mentally. I’m doing my morning meditations, visualizing getting to the summit, the Uhuru Peak. Wish me the best!

How do you plan to train for this challenge?

So far, I have been training in a treadmill with an inclination of 12-15% almost every day and I’ve been increasing the duration for endurance. I go to Crowders Mountain in Gastonia twice a week, do some weight training too—and I’m watching my diet.

Who will be joining you on this trip?

There are two of us climbing with the outfitter, Adventure International, who is also the outfitter TFFT works with for RIDETZ.   What would you say to others who are looking to take on a new challenge, who might be considering a challenge like RIDETZ or climbing Kilimanjaro?

Leave your comfort zone, and dare to experience unique journeys now!

Don’t wait for the right time, it might never come! Invest in experiences and remember to enjoy the process! 

What are your other interests? 

I love to travel, I like to read, and I am very much into spirituality and personal growth. I also enjoy getting together with my tribe for some good wine and laughs!

Check out these links for more information about The Foundation For Tomorrow!


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Check out Mixed Nuts: A story and discussion about diversity and inclusion for children



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